Formaldehyde in Weyerhaeuser TJI® Joists with Flak Jacket® Protection

Weyerhaeuser announced in a press release dated July 18, 2017 that its TJI® Joists with Flak Jacket® Protection manufactured after Dec. 1, 2016 are releasing an odor “related to a recent formula change to the Flak Jacket coating that included formaldehyde-based resin.”

Flak Jacket Protection is a coating applied to I-joists to enhance fire resistance.  According to the press release the joists in question are “present in the basements of approximately 2,200 houses in various stages of construction in limited markets.”  The press release states that the issue does not affect any of Weyerhaeuser’s other products.

Weyerhaeuser has agreed to cover the cost to either remediate or replace affected joists. For information on the “top coat” solution being offered by Weyerhaeuser, click here. The company has halted all production, sales and shipments of the product, and is collecting unused product from customers.

To read the press release, click here.

Affected homes may be in New Jersey, Colorado, Delaware, Arkansas, Missouri and Ohio. Builders involved in constructing these homes include Toll Brothers, Richmond America Homes, CalAtlantic Homes, and K. Hovnanian Homes.

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature and has a strong odor. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause adverse health effects including irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat and can exacerbate existing respiratory illnesses. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) determined in 2011 that formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen and high exposures may cause cancer.

The EPA has set limits for formaldehyde in drinking water.  However, there are no national limits for formaldehyde concentration in the air in our homes.   The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has limited workers’ exposure to an average of 0.75 ppm for an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has set standards for formaldehyde emissions in manufactured housing of less than 0.2 ppm for plywood and 0.3 ppm for particle board. The HUD standards are designed to provide an ambient air level of 0.4 ppm or less in manufactured housing.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended limit for occupational exposure to formaldehyde is 20 ng/L (.016 ppm). The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that short-term formaldehyde exposures not exceed 100 ng/L (0.08 ppm).

For more information on formaldehyde, click here.

According to a recent release from Prism Analytical Technologies, it has analyzed a few indoor air quality samples from homes that have the Weyerhaeuser joists at issue.  The “results have indicated formaldehyde levels in the range of 300-900 ng/L. Most homes measured by Prism’s air test have concentrations in the range of 30-70 ng/L.”  Prism’s 20-minute formaldehyde test is accredited by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).  For more information on The Prism Analytical test for formaldehyde, click here.

I have not located any information indicating the Weyerhaeuser joists in question were sold or used in Maine.  However, formaldehyde is produced naturally by humans, plants (especially woods), and animals. Formaldehyde is also found in many man made products, including engineered wood products (e.g., particle board, plywood, OSB, MDF, flooring, etc.), some preservatives, personal care and cleaning products, cosmetics, permanent press fabrics, glues, air fresheners, paints and coatings.

Formaldehyde is also a byproduct of combustion, which includes some vehicle exhaust, fuel-burning appliances (gas stoves, kerosene space heaters, etc.), fireplaces, wildfires, structural fires, tobacco smoke, and trash fires.

Formaldehyde levels in laminate flooring made in China and sold by Lumber Liquidators became an issue in after a 60 Minutes report aired in March of 2015.  This story resulted in my testing many homes for formaldehyde. Click here for a blog I published regarding formaldehyde in laminate flooring.

If you have any questions concerning testing for formaldehyde, or indoor air quality issues, please call 944-7425.

I will update this blog as more information becomes available.

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Home Inspector Tip: Time to Inspect and Clean Your Gutters

It is not a task we look forward to, but if you have gutters on your house or commercial property, they require maintenance to function properly.  Gutters not functioning properly can lead to water spilling over or leaking from the gutters, damaging the fascia,  soffits, siding, roof, and framing of the property.  Malfunctioning gutters and/2015-10-16 11.54.44or downspouts can also result in water entering your basement or causing erosion.

Contrary to what many think, gutters do not cause ice dams. However, if gutters are clogged or not functioning properly water and ice can collect.  As gutters fill with ice, they can fail and rip away from the house bringing fascia, fasteners and downspouts along with them.

If you have not done so already, it is time to make sure your gutters are ready to perform the important task of directing water away from your property. This is especially important now that most of the leaves are gone (at least here in Maine) and before snow flies.

While there are tools designed to clean your gutters from the ground, you should inspect the gutters, down spout, hangers, etc. from a safe ladder before and after performing any cleaning.  If you do not feel safe on a ladder, or do not have access to a safe ladder of sufficient length, it is worth it to hire someone to inspect, clean and repair your gutters to make sure they work properly.


In addition to inspecting, repairing, and cleaning the gutters and downspouts, it is also important to make sure there is an extension at the bottom of all downspouts to shed  water away from the property. I recommend a minimum of 3 feet. There should also be a splash block at the end of all extensions to help eliminate erosion.

I also recommend you inspect your gutters and downspouts again in the spring to make sure they survived the winter.


Posted in Gutters, Home Maintenance, Ice Dams | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Home Inspector Tip: American Red Cross Offers Free Smoke Alarms

Combination Smoke CO AlarmThe American Red Cross has joined forces with the State Fire Marshal, local fire departments, and community partners on a campaign to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires in Maine by 25 percent. The program, called the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, was launched in 2014 and includes the installation of free smoke alarms.

Please see below for information on the program, or call (207)941-2903 x113.

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Home Inspector Tip: How to Prevent Dryer Fires

According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), dryers and washing machines were involved in one out of every 22 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments in 2006-2010. In 2010 alone, an estimated 16,800 reported U.S. home structure fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines resulted in 51 civilian deaths, 380 civilian injuries and $236 million in direct property damage. Clothes dryers accounted for 92% of the fires. The leading cause of home clothes dryer and washer fires was failure to clean (32%).

I regularly encounter dryer vents and/or pipes clogged with lint during my home inspections.  Unfortunately, this situation may be a tragedy waiting to happen if the dryer overheats and the lint, which is very flammable, catches on fire. The good news is that this type of fire can be prevented with a modest amount of effort and little, if any expense.


Here are some tips from the NFPA on what you can do to prevent a dryer fire:

  • Do not use a dryer without a lint trap.
  • Clean the lint filter before or after each load of laundry and remove any lint which has collected around the drum.
  • Use a rigid or flexible metal vent pipe instead of plastic.
  • Make sure the exhaust vent pipe is not restricted and the vent flap operates when the dryer is on.
  • At least once a year, and more often if it is taking longer than normal to dry your clothes, clean the lint from the vent pipe and the exhaust vent, or have a lint removal service do it for you.
  • Turn the dryer off if you leave home or when you go to bed.
Posted in Fire Safety, Home Maintenance | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Home Inspector Tip: Test Your Well Water

We all want our drinking water, and the water we use to cook, bath, etc. to be safe and not harm our plumbing, discolor our laundry, etc. If you live in a town or city where the water comes from a municipal source, the local water district tests the water on a regular basis to make sure it complies with EPA and Maine standards to insure it is safe to drink and does not contain certain contaminants. If your water comes from a well, whether drilled or dug, it is up to you as the homeowner to test your water.

The State of Maine recommends that well water be tested every year for bacteria, nitrates, and nitrites and every 3 to 5 years for certain other chemicals, including radon and lead.  Here is a link to a brochure prepared by the State which sets forth its recommendations concerning testing well water.

The State of Maine also recommends that the water in all homes, even if the water is not from a well, be tested for lead with what is referred to as “first draw lead” test, every 10 years for homes built before 1990 when lead soldering was banned. Because the source of lead is usually NOT the ground water, but the plumbing, a unique sample is required for a first draw lead.

Despite the recommendations of the state, in my experience as a home inspector, very few people regularly test their well water after they buy or build a home.  When I collect water samples to be tested on behalf of a home buyer and the test reveals the presence of something which makes it unsafe to drink, such as coliform bacteria, arsenic, or fluoride, the property owner is notified and he/she is usually very surprised to discover the water is unsafe to drink.  The same applies when other contaminants are detected in a test which make the water hard, may corrode plumbing fixtures, etc.

Testing is relatively inexpensive depending on what you want to test for. You can hire a home inspector or other professional to collect water samples to have your well water tested. This allows you to have your water sampled by a professional for not much more than what it would cost you to do the test yourself taking into account water samples require overnight shipping if you are testing for bacteria.

If you are going to collect the samples yourself, you can order a test kit from one of the labs certified by Maine to test well water.  Here is a link to website which lists the certified labs in Maine.The kit will come with instructions on how to collect the samples.  For those of you who prefer video instructions, such as myself, here is a video which explains what you need to do. Water Testing Equipment

Regardless of whether you are going to do it yourself, or hire someone, I encourage everyone to regularly test their well water. Doing so is the only way to know that it is safe for you and your family.


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Elevated levels of radon gas from concrete used to build homes and condo complex in Georgia

Very interesting news story from Georgia regarding elevated levels of radon gas from concrete used to build homes and a condo complex in Georgia.  I have not heard of anything like this in Maine.  However, it reinforces the importance of testing for radon gas as it is the only way to know if the level in your home, or the home you are in the process of buying, may pose a risk to your health.

Thanks to fellow MeCHIPS member Roger Roy for sharing this news story with me.

Posted in Indoor Air Quality, Radon | Leave a comment

Home Inspector Tip: Time to Inspect Your Decks, Balconies and Exterior Stairs

Deck failure photo

Good weather will soon be here, or at least we hope this is the case. Spring is an ideal time for property owners to inspect their decks, balconies and exterior stairs before family and friends start gathering for birthday parties, graduations, barbecues, and other events.  A recent tragedy highlights the need for property owners to perform these inspections this spring. On April 22, a Portland man fell from the third floor balcony of an apartment house after the railing he was leaning against gave way. The man died from his injuries.

Incidents such as the one in Portland are not unique here in Maine. In December of 2009, a second floor deck collapsed in Orono and several people were seriously injured.  In June of 2005, a second floor deck at an apartment building in Ft. Kent collapsed during a party, resulting in 15 people being injured, including five who were taken to a hospital. There are many more incidents where people are injured which do not generate the publicity of these events which were reported in the media.

In addition to dealing with the emotional trauma of a family member, friend, guest or tenant being injured on your property, a property owner could be held liable for the damages resulting from the injuries if he/she is found to have been negligent with respect to the design, construction or maintenance of the deck, balcony,  stairs or railing system.

There are several conditions which can lead to the failure of a deck, balcony, stairs or railing system.  These include:

  • Improper design
  • Structural defects
  • Inadequate anchoring of the structure to the property
  • Improper fasteners
  • Railing systems of inadequate height, lack of proper balusters, or systems not securely attached
  • Exceeding the maximum weight limit
  • Improper support of the deck, balcony or stairs
  • Lack of proper maintenance

Whatever the cause of the failure, it likely could have been prevented had the system been inspected and any deficiencies properly repaired.

If you own a home or apartment building which has a deck, balcony or exterior stairs, I recommend you inspect them now, and again next spring.  If you are not sure what to look for, have a contractor or home inspector perform the inspection for you. If you are a tenant and observe what you think is a problem with the deck, balcony or stairs where you rent, bring this to the attention of your landlord.  If a problem is detected, repair it promptly. You, and everyone who will be using the deck, balcony, or stairs, will be glad you did so.

Here are several videos on what causes decks to collapse, including a collapse caught on video.

Posted in Decks, Balconies & Railings, Home Inspections | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Home Inspector Tip: How Indoor Allergens & Pollutants May Impact those with COPD

This newly released video from the IAQ Video Network discusses how people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also known as COPD, may be impacted by exposure to indoor allergens and pollutants.

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Chinese Made Laminate Flooring Sold by Lumber Liquidators Unsafe Due to Formaldehyde?

According to the following report which appeared on 60 Minutes on March 1, 2015, Lumber Liquidators’ Chinese-made laminate flooring contains amounts of toxic formaldehyde that may not meet health and safety standards.

Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen that is added to the production of some wood flooring products. This Tech Tip video from the Indoor Air Quality Association (, discusses regulations related to formaldehyde emissions from wood flooring products.

I do not recommend anyone make a decision, or come to any conclusion, regarding any laminate flooring purchased from Lumber Liquidators based solely on the 60 Minute report, or the video from IAQA. I will post additional information concerning this flooring as it becomes available.

If you have any questions concerning testing for formaldehyde, or indoor air quality issues, please call 944-7425.

Posted in Formaldehyde, Indoor Air Quality | Tagged , , , , | 28 Comments

Home Inspector Tip: Test Your Home For Radon


Posted in Indoor Air Quality, Radon | 1 Comment